Tuchel’s Chelsea masterplan: replace Romelu Lukaku with Robert Lewandowski

Lukaku out, Lewandowski in?

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel would like to replace Romelu Lukaku with Robert Lewandowski, but there are significant obstacles to completing both deals, sources told ESPN.

Lukaku is keen on rejoining Inter Milan and endured a disappointing first season back at Stamford Bridge — with eight goals in 26 Premier League games — after leaving the Serie A club for €115 million last summer.

Sources told ESPN that talks took place between Lukaku and the club in recent days, during which Chelsea signalled their willingness to allow the Belgian striker to leave the club. However, the Blues want to recoup the vast majority of the club-record fee they paid just a year earlier, while Inter are short on cash and would prefer a loan deal.

Chelsea had originally been asking for around €20m-€25m to loan Lukaku for just one season in an effort to offset any depreciation in his transfer value given he turns 30 next year. However, they are now willing to accept a significantly lower fee and talks are continuing — it is as yet undecided whether any agreement will include an option or obligation to make the move permanent, or how his £300,000-a-week wages will be paid.

Simultaneously, Chelsea are seeking a striker of their own to reshape their attack. Chelsea held an interest in Erling Haaland but were unable to compete with Manchester City due to sanctions blocking transfers imposed by the U.K. government arising from former owner Roman Abramovich’s alleged ties with Russia president Vladimir Putin.

Tuchel has long been an admirer of Lewandowski, who has confirmed his intention to leave Bayern Munich, and believes he would thrive in the Premier League despite turning 34 in August. The Poland international has been heavily linked with a €40m move to Barcelona with reports in Spain this week suggesting he has verbally agreed a deal, but a lack of funds is holding things up.

Several rivals are looking to pounce on any uncertainty with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United among the clubs linked with Lewandowski. Sources told ESPN that Tuchel has encouraged Chelsea to enter the running if there is any chance a deal can be done.

But should Lewandowski sign for Barcelona, Chelsea will turn their attention to other targets. It is unclear at this stage which alternative they would pursue but the Blues have been made aware of Gabriel Jesus’ availability at City — ESPN revealed on May 19 that Arsenal had been quoted a fee of £55m to sign the Brazil international — and the Blues have asked to be kept informed of any developments as a number of clubs are interested. ESPN reported on Thursday that Arsenal were closing in on the striker’s signature.

Chelsea would be able to offer Champions League football to Jesus, but the 25-year-old has a good relationship with Gunners boss Mikel Arteta from their time together at City. The Blues have also scouted RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, who could cost as much as €100m, among several others.

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